February 18, 2015 - 11:18 AM
ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Seventeen police officers from a small city in British Columbia are being investigated for alleged misconduct amid concerns that criminal cases may have been compromised.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner said 148 allegations of corruption, deceit and neglect of duty against officers in Abbotsford relate to statements they provided before search warrants were issued for drug investigations.
An officer in Vancouver is also being investigated on separate but related concerns, Rollie Woods, deputy police complaint commissioner, said Wednesday.
Woods said the office is concerned that people may have been falsely prosecuted if officers gave misleading or inaccurate information to obtain search warrants.
"These are very serious allegations," he said. "It could affect the ability of a police officer to testify in court or to apply for a search warrant."
Woods said Chief Const. Bob Rich of the Abbotsford Police Department received information about Const. Christopher Nicholson's alleged criminal activity in 2012 and 2013 and that Vancouver police was asked to do a criminal investigate.
Nicholson was arrested on May 6, 2013, and Woods said that about one-third of the 148 allegations apply to him.
He has been charged with breach of trust, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance.
Nicholson was suspended without pay. Pre-trial proceedings in his case are to begin March 19 and a jury trial has been scheduled for May 2016.
Rich defended the 16 officers under investigation, saying they were all being investigated by the Vancouver Police Department but only Nicholson was charged.
He said the officers have been taken off drug investigations and that some of their practices involving how informants are handled, for example, came under the spotlight as part of an audit that he requested.
"There was confusion over how much you needed to say about an informant. Their criminal record needed to be put into a search warrant, that sort of thing, and that's our bad," he said.
"Is it possible there will be some deceits? Yeah, that's possible," Rich said, adding he could have provided better training for the officers.
Woods said police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe ordered the New Westminster Police Department in August 2013 to conduct a separate investigation into Nicholson's alleged professional misconduct.
A new order for an expanded investigation was issued last March when allegations against more officers surfaced, he said.
"Normally we don't comment on Police Act investigations, but this one is so serious and so large that the commissioner felt it was in the public interest to release this information now."
B.C. Attorney General Suzanne Anton said she's aware of the investigation and that the original complaint came from the Abbotsford police chief.
"It is concerning when you hear allegations like that, but it's in the hands of the police complaint commissioner, which is the right place for it to be."
Anton, pointing out the matter is now before the courts, said she did not wish to comment about concerns that some criminal prosecutions may have been compromised.
A statement from New Westminster police said the RCMP and the Delta Police Department are also participating in the investigation.
Woods said that investigation, under the Police Act, has been delayed while the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner waits for a large volume of documents from police.
"The investigation is very complex and undergoing constant review and re-examination of available materials by the investigators to ensure that all matters are fully canvassed," New Westminster police said.
Sgt. Chad Johnston said Chief Const. Dave Jones has been designated as an external discipline authority involving the Police Act investigation.
Jones will be tasked with reviewing the evidence and deciding whether Nicholson will undergo a discipline hearing.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015